ASK THE MXPERTS: What Are The Available 2009 Honda CRF450 Clutch Fixes?

ASK THE MXPERTS: I NEED HELP WITH MY 2009 CRF450 CLUTCH

Dear MXA,

   I have owned CRF450 since 2006, but I have never had so many issues with slipping clutches as I have had with my new 2009 CRF450. I am on my third clutch. On my 2007 CRF450 I had the same clutch in the bike for six months. What is the problem, but more importantly, what is the fix?


The stock CRF450 four-spring clutch is on the left, the Hinson six-spring clutch is on the right.
The 2009 Honda CRF450 has the same basic four-spring clutch that the Honda factory race team has been using for the last four years. Honda can rightly say that the stock 2009 clutch is just like the works clutch. The problem is that factory riders get a new clutch for every race (and their works clutches have very special titanium clutch springs).

When the four-spring Team Honda works design (which is made by Hinson) was transferred to the 2009 production bike, Honda faced a dilemma. To make the four clutch springs work as well as the previous six clutch springs, the four springs had to be stiffer. However, Honda didn’t want the clutch to be too stiff to pull–so they had to make a compromise. They sacrificed clutch-pack pressure for ease of use. When you use less clutch springs they have to be stiffer than when you use more, but Honda decided not to go as stiff as necessary to insure solid hook-up (or even enough to equal the clamping force of the previous six-spring clutch). And even though each individual 2009 clutch spring is stiffer than last year’s clutch springs, the new 2009 clutch has about 35 pounds less clamping force (plate-to-plate). Thus, with even a small amount of wear or age, the 2009 four-spring clutch is more prone to slipping than the 2008 six-spring clutch. This is a fact (a mechanical fact) that even the most loyal Honda owners will face if he uses the clutch hard.

WHAT WERE MXA’S FIXES?

When people tell you that the best way to save your clutch is to not use it, that is just plain stupidity. It is obvious that if you don’t use the clutch it will last forever, and the same goes for tires, gasoline and pistons. But it is unrealistic to not ride your bike in order to save gas. If you are a rider who is very light on your clutch usage, then you will not have issues with the 2009 CRF450 clutch. If however, you are like most racers and use the clutch to its fullest, then you need to keep reading.

Step One: This was our low-cost attempt. The MXA test crew first tried to shim our 2009 CRF450 clutch (we used special CNC-machined 60 thousandths washers). The washers increased the clamping pressure, but made the clutch hard to pull. Another downside is that they changed the release point of the clutch and made it more on-off, which wasn’t as usable when you were just trying to get the bike out of a corner with a little bit of slip.

Step Two: This was the next cheapest fix, but not possible at the moment. We do think that special aftermarket clutch springs can be wound to make the stock clutch work with less of an immediate response (which is what Team Honda uses), but none are available yet. No matter, stiffer clutch springs, which is what is needed on the four-spring clutch, will be harder to pull.

Step Three: The ultimate solution for our CRF450 clutch woes was to install a special Hinson six-spring clutch. We used a Hinson pressure plate and Hinson inner hub (plus assorted Hinson hardware). This turned our new 2009 four-spring clutch into an exact replica of last year’s six-spring clutch. Of course that worked wonders. Now you might be wondering why you can’t just take last year’s clutch and stick it in this year’s engine. The reason you can’t is because it won’t fit. The 2009 clutch has a different spline size than the 2008 clutch. The Hinson six-spring clutch can be installed by just changing the pressure plate and inner hub or as part of a complete Hinson six-spring clutch kit (basket, inner hub and pressure plate).

Obviously, this fix is for riders who feel the need to improve the 2009 Honda CRF450. Of course, the easiest fix is to just not use it.

For more info about 2009 Honda CRF450 clutches contact Hinson at www.hinsonracing.com or at (909) 946-2942.

Send question to mxa@hi-torque.com

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